Great Danes might be in running for invitation to CBI

University at Albany men’s basketball season might not be over, after all.

University at Albany men’s basketball season might not be over, after all.

Although a Stony Brook buzzer-beater ousted the Great Danes in the America East Conference tournament semifinals Sunday at Chase Family Arena, UAlbany might be invited to a postseason tournament.

The most likely scenario would be a bid to the College Basketball Invitational, presented by Zebra Pen. It’s a 16-team event that begins March 13 and ends with a unique best-of-three championship series on March 26. All games are played on campus.

UAlbany would have to wait until the NCAA bids and NIT berths are announced before knowing its status, but CBI officials were in attendance to watch the Great Danes play over the weekend.

“I’m hungry. I’m ready to get back on the court,” said junior point guard Mike Black. “We’ll play anybody,” said

UAlbany head coach Will Brown. “I get annoyed at the coaches who turn down NIT or other tourn­ament bids at the end of the season. We will go if invited. I think it would a great experience for these players, and everybody wants more games to play.”

Whether the Danes continue their season or not, it’s been an up-and-down year.

The Great Danes were strong at home, posting a 10-3 mark at SEFCU Arena, and they proved they could beat the also-rans in their conference. Only fifth-seeded New Hampshire defeated UAlbany among the lower seeds in the league.

But the Great Danes never defeated the three teams above them — Stony Brook, Vermont and Boston University — despite playing well in several of those games. The Danes squandered big leads against Stony Brook and Boston University, and nearly pulled the upset over Vermont before bowing by three points at home.

Injuries and illness hurt the team down the stretch, just when the Great Danes appeared to be peaking.

Gerardo Suero, a 6-foot-4 junior college transfer from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, finished fifth in the nation in scoring at 21.7 points per game. A dynamic, slashing player with good range and quickness, Suero suffered a case of the shingles late in the season, causing him to miss a few games.

Second-leading scorer Logan Aronhalt, who scored better than 14 points per game and was an outstanding free-throw shooter, battled a knee injury all season and will have surgery when the season is officially over. He missed a handful of games and wasn’t effective in the games he played down the stretch. He sat out Sunday’s semifinal.

Luke Devlin, a 6-8 sophomore starting forward, hurt his back and then bruised his kneecap, forcing him to miss several games and limit his playing time down the stretch.

Ralph Watts, a sophomore swingman who was the first man off the bench for much of the year, missed the final two weeks with a hamstring injury.

Jayson Guerrier, a junior transfer, and junior guard Jacob Iati, a three-point specialist, filled in admirably and helped the Danes win some games late in the year when it looked like they might struggle without Suero, Aronhalt or Devlin.

The future definitely looks bright for UAlbany, which was one of only nine Division I teams in the country without a true senior on its roster.

Only Iati won’t return, as he has decided not to use his final year of eligibility, and will instead become a graduate assistant coach next year.

“Iati’s heart is bigger than his body,” said Brown.

“We don’t have a senior, so we will have everybody back. We’ll be good next year, as long as I don’t screw it up.”

“We’ll probably win everything next year,” said Suero.

That means the Danes will have Suero, Aronhalt, Black, Devlin and 6-9 center Blake Metcalf back as starters, along with Watts, 6-10 John Puk, Guerrier, defensive backcourt specialist Tanner Gibson and former rugby player Sam Rowley from Australia back, along with fellow Aussie Peter Hooley and Chris Page, a couple of guards who redshirted this year. Hooley impressed the UAlbany coaches with his shooting touch on last summer’s preseason Canadian tour.

Along with the starters, Guerrier and Rowley took advantage of their late-season opportunities for extra minutes.

“Guerrier has done everything we have asked of him, and he should get more playing time next year,” Brown said.

“We want Rowley to be a [Stony Brook junior] Tommy Brenton-type of player who is aggressive and goes after the rebounds. We should be pretty good.”

Categories: College Sports

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